How to Be an Historic First

If a recent Gallup Poll is to be believed, 58 percent of Americans support the confirmation of Ketanji Brown Jackson as a U.S. Supreme Court justice. A majority of Americans also believe that presidential candidate Joe Biden was correct in promising to nominate a black woman to the nation’s highest court. This was presumably a wise decision even if Jackson seemed stumped during her hearing when asked to define a biological woman. Justice Brett Kavanaugh never reached even a 50 percent approval rating during his Senate confirmation process. Of course, Kavanaugh was subject to unsubstantiated personal attacks by Democratic senators and by the even more malicious press and then tormented by hissing feminists who invaded the Senate building. 

I’m not at all surprised that Jackson has generated such apparent enthusiasm, or that there is such a mass demand for having a specifically black female justice on the Court. This does however raise a question: How can one answer a pollster in the negative about the acceptability of a black female candidate for a high position without appearing to be a sexist and “white nationalist”? Answering pollsters honestly under the present dispensation may be too much emotionally for some respondents, even in what they are assured is a confidential poll. 

Unfortunately, the verbiage that the Biden Administration gives us about reaching out to minorities reeks with insincerity. Our leftist establishment is not exactly elevating the downtrodden when it bestows honors on affluent blacks and women of privilege. It is merely assisting woke enablers of the ruling class, who look physically different from Joe Biden or Senator Dick Durbin (D-Ill.). Our rulers hide the obvious by rhapsodizing about diversity. They make it seem as if they have helped “overcome barriers” or “remove glass ceilings” when in fact they are merely fortifying their grip on society. 

Much of this became obvious to me when Barack Obama became president in 2009. Somehow this Ivy League darling who moved in limousine liberal circles was “authentically” black, while Clarence Thomas was not—although Thomas is not half-white like Obama is, and rose out of extreme poverty in the rural South. Yet Thomas is a legal traditionalist and traditional Christian, which to the Left made him counterfactually “less black” than Obama. 

Since the political establishment delights in handing out such labels as “first black” and “first woman,” I might point out that in 2006 there were two black Republicans running as their party’s candidates in gubernatorial races, one in Pennsylvania and the other in Ohio. Both candidates, Lynn Swann and Ken Blackwell, went down to defeat at the hands of white liberal Democrats, who enjoyed overwhelming mainstream media support. 

In my own state of Pennsylvania, Swann, the black Republican candidate, commanded widespread name recognition as a star football player for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Despite his early lead, his Democratic opponent Ed Rendell won by 20 points. Swann was wiped out, thanks to massive out-of-state funding from the usual leftist sources and thanks to the ringing endorsement of Swann’s white adversary in the major state newspapers. For the establishment, this black Republican and devout Evangelical Christian was unsuited to become Pennsylvania’s first black governor, just as another black Republican, Blackwell, was unfit to hold that office in Ohio. 

Being the “first black” or “first female” occupant of a political or judicial office depends on whether our hegemonic class sees that person swearing fealty to the Democratic Party and on holding standard left-of-center views. Last summer in California, the media decided that the black conservative Larry Elder was unfit to become the “first black governor” of the Golden State. The Los Angeles Times published a column on August 20 characterizing Elder as “the black face of white supremacy.” CNN aired the same ludicrous charge in September. Since the public may not have noticed how candidates are blocked from becoming the “first” if they have the wrong party or ideological affiliation, it may be necessary to point this out. 

CNN has reported almost breathlessly about the historic significance of Jackson’s nomination to the Court as the first black woman. This firstness has supposedly raised the confirmation proceedings to an almost sacred rite, disturbed only by the irreverent questioning of a few Republican senators. But the current nominee is not the first black woman nominated to a federal judgeship. As a senator, Biden filibustered the nomination of Janice Rogers Brown for a judicial appointment to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. Although Brown is black and the daughter of a poor Alabama sharecropper, she also carried the stigma of being a Republican nominee. 

Therefore, the current promoter of the “first black woman” worked mightily to keep Brown from the federal bench, which he succeeded in doing from 2005 until 2007. Mind you, that occurred while Biden was still a Democratic Party hack and not yet a tool of the woke Left. Fortunately for him, the media didn’t care about his nasty behavior in the Senate, since only Democrats can be regarded as “firsts.”

About Paul Gottfried

Paul Edward Gottfried is the editor of Chronicles. An American paleoconservative philosopher, historian, and columnist, Gottfried is a former Horace Raffensperger Professor of Humanities at Elizabethtown College in Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania, as well as a Guggenheim recipient.

Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

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